Here is a confession: the more and more research I do, the more I end up diverted on things I find fascinating. Like most of you, my favorite tool for this is the internet. One of my favorite websites is: www.ted.com. There are so many academic, scientific, artistic and humanities presentations on ted.com that I could spend hours just absorbing– until my brain turns to jelly! The website’s primary aim is to inform and explore ideas that are changing the world. And it’s free!
As parents, teaching a child how to protect themselves on the internet is an important part of parenting that I teach in family and youth counseling. Here are 5 things I tell kids, children, tweens, teens, parents and adults about the internet:
1. No takebacks. Anything that you post on the internet will be out there, FOREVER.
2. The people on the internet might not be who they say they are. How do you know you can trust someone you may never have met? You have to cultivate an internet safety policy. How are you going to protect yourself online?
3. Some websites can turn your computers into zombies. Some can steal your identity.
4. Cyberbullying is real and feels the same as bullying. Tell someone you trust immediately if you are getting bullied or harrassed on the internet.
5. You have real relationships outside of the internet that you have to deal with too.
Here are some great websites that offer safety rules for families on the internet:
I particularly like the article on Intenet Safety 101 for young families because it has kid-friendly search engines that help kids from being targeted with inappropriate material.
I tell parents to have conversations about family values around internet use. Teach your children how to use the internet safely. Anticipate how you are going to deal with behaviors your kids may do that may be inappropriate. Remember that father that you-tubed himself shooting his daughter’s laptop because he believed she acted inappropriately on the internet? Your children are trying to learn how to socialize. And they are likely to make mistakes. Don’t we all?
Another lesson is this: working through a personal conflict is a skill you have to learn. You have to learn how to appropriately deal with conflict face to face as well as on online. Saying things about a person online to everyone without trying to work through the conflict you have with that person isn’t solving the problem you have with that person. If you need help, try counseling. You can learn how to deal with conflict with others appropriately.
Here’s a fun way to spend some family time learning something new. Let every member of the family pick one Ted talk each week for the family to sit down and watch together. Upon viewing, open up a discussion about what you liked, didn’t like or didn’t understand about the talk. Encourage each family member to engage in active and open discussion.
I usually tell the people that I meet that I love the empowerment the internet and the technology that we have can give us. Set good policies and limits for yourselves and your children to stay empowered on the internet.